Task force travels to Michigan college

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

On July 18, the Mercyhurst Diversity Task Force traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to partake in training sessions on diversity and inclusion to bring these skills and insights back to Mercyhurst for the upcoming school year.

Last year, following an incident involving race, a task force was created to help improve inclusion and diversity awareness on campus. This initiative was put in place by President Michael T. Victor and the faculty of Mercyhurst in order to create a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for all students.

“Diversity is a fact; it is something that we are,” said Tyler Brentley, Multicultural & Inclusion coordinator. “Learning how to embrace and embody that in our students is something very much needed.”

The task force went to Kalamazoo College and met with the provost and director of Institutional Resources. They also met with various other members of the faculty and staff in group breakout sessions to focus on each task force’s respective area.

Alice Agnew, Title IX coordinator, also attended the training session and focused more on the human resources and hiring strategies to make those areas of Mercyhurst more inclusive, and found several new ways to promote this mindset at the university.

“We might need to do some background on what and how we need to do things,” said Agnew, “but we don’t shy away from things that need to be done in order to make it a better, more cohesive community at Mercyhurst.”

Kalamazoo College has been a major proponent of the addition of more resources, training programs and practices that promote diversity and inclusion on their campus. The faculty and staff were very knowledgeable and provided many resources and support for Mercyhurst.

“This visit made me appreciate Mercyhurst because it showed me that we are not really far behind,” said Brentley. “There are things we need to improve, but we do need to give ourselves credit for where we are.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Initiative is a constant work in progress for the faculty. From this training session in Kalamazoo, the faculty stressed that their mindsets and ideas were changed in a positive way after the trip to Michigan and that is a huge step forward in itself.

Over the next several years, Mercyhurst hopes to improve hiring and human resources practices and continue to work with the student body to make changes happen. The creation of these task forces and the changes they continually make to improve the way things happen is a direct result of student voices being heard.

“Student involvement certainly helps to make things happen,” said Agnew. “SAC/MAC and MSG are all focusing on what defining diversity is and seem to be very cohesive this year. It is so nice to get more information from Kalamazoo to see that other people are working on these issues as well.”

Looking ahead, the task force seeks to implement these new practices and use the skills they have acquired not only from this workshop, but from the changing environment of Mercyhurst.

“People are forever changing, and Mercyhurst is as well,” said Brentley. “It is better to be prepared for students as they come in and not try to catch up once they are here. Just having that type of inclusive atmosphere and giving students a sense of belonging is huge. Feeling like you belong on a campus is essential to a successful college experience.”